sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

January 22, 2016

By All Means, Houghton Mifflin, Sell Me Some Textbooks!

Filed under: education, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:30 am

The latest undercover revelation by Project Veritas concerns Common Core.  They talked to two women, one in publishing, a Houghton Mifflin employee, and another — a teacher.  The publisher laughs about hating kids and only being interested in money, and the teacher explains that Common Core mandates a change in curriculum which requires new textbooks producing a windfall profit to publishers:

In O’Keefe’s latest video, Dianne Barrow, the West Coast Accounts Manager for Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt was caught on camera saying, “You don’t think that the educational publishing companies are in it for education do you? No. They’re in it for the money. The fact that they have to align the educational standards is what they have to do to sell the books.”

In our elementary school word problems are now called “story problems”, a local charter school no longer uses the word “student” — their students are “learners”, you see.  So I know about aligning the educational standards.

My feelings about  Common Core are generally negative.  I don’t believe this country needs a uniform centralized educational program, especially if its content is questionable.  I recently wrote about Common Core math, and since then I talked to some local homeschoolers who advised buying Singapore math textbooks.  “Make sure it doesn’t say “Common Core compliant” on the cover,” I was told. “Because by the time the program went through the American educational bureaucracy, it’s garbage”.

My biggest problem with American education however, are lazy, incompetent teachers (not all of them of course) who neither understand the material they are supposed to explain to students nor willing to take time to figure out how to teach it.  Pretty much every successful child we know is partially homeschooled — and I live in a town known for good schools.

Having said that, Common Core left our teachers out in the dry.  Aside from math, our kids don’t have any textbooks, and math textbooks are used sparingly.  Teachers would very much like to have textbooks, but there aren’t any.

On top of that, our students don’t have planners or letter grades, they keep their schoolwork at their classroom desk and homework does not necessarily reflect schoolwork.  Because the PTA buys school supplies, I have little control over that too.  It’s as if the system is designed to decrease direct parental involvement in critical issues.  I have no clue what my child is being told in social studies, and (Common Core!) if I come to talk to the teacher, she will attempt to explain “multiple methods” (and will make a mistake in the process).  Teachers are big on trying to figure out Common Core math with parents.  Keeps our brains occupied, I suppose.

I am constantly playing catch up, trying to figure out what my children are studying and how to help them.  I want textbooks, notebooks that come home, planners and grades.  This is school?

I want a concrete set of assignments and expectations.  I understand why people homeschool, but I went to a traditional German-style institution and, I’d like to think, it worked out pretty well for me.  My schooling was filled with anxieties and propaganda; even now I have rather mixed feelings about it.  But it gave me a structure within which to become an independent thinker.

My kids, on the other hand, like their school very much.  They are upset when they have to miss a day.  They don’t feign illness.  But while my generation socialized, loosely supervised, in the afternoon, my kids go to school for social life, and I drill academics into their heads when they return.  Strange world.

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